back to article Cambridge congestion charge plans shelved

Cambridgeshire County Council has shelved plans for congestion charging following a lack of local support. The council had said it wanted to cut traffic levels in the city by 10 per cent and submitted a bid for £500m of the government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF). Its bid included proposals for peak period congestion …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Congestion Charge

    You won't need congestion charges the way the price of oil is going up.

    More and more people will stop using cars.

  2. Martin

    Solving the wrong problem

    Actually ask people why they don't like traffic congestion. Then ask yourself if the answer is stopping people from driving places by other means (expense etc).

  3. David Harper

    Cambridge public transport sucks

    Bus services in and around Cambridge are expensive and infrequent, and they pretty much stop running after 6.15 p.m., so if you live in one of the surrounding villages and work in Cambridge, your options are limited.

    Stagecoach has a near-monopoly on running buses in Cambridge.

    I wonder if these two facts are connected ...

  4. Jamie

    Go for it

    I would be all for the idea of a congestion charge if it was done honestly and was set to drop congestion and not be a money making racket for a bunch of drug addicted politicos.

    Bring in the congestion charge, use the money raised to put more police on the road. Set the law so that the extra police just patrol for illegal cars and drivers. When caught the car is impounded and you have to pay a charge to get it back if you can provide the necessary papers. If you cannot after one week it goes to a lot where it will get auctioned off. This money will go back into the pot for the police. If an illegal driver borrowed the car the owner can get it back after the trial where they testify that driver took it under false pretenses (thieft). They will still have to pay the storage charge.

    Eventually this should be able to be self sufficient and then you can drop the congestion charge. (one problem the politicos won't drop the charge as they will become addicted to the extra money).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    As a "local" who failed to support this scheme I would like to point out that Cambridge already has a congestion charge - it's parking fees and fuel prices! Besides which, the (mis)Guided Busway is supposed to solve all our transport problems when it opens next year - despite the fact that I will have to get in my car to drive halfway to Cambridge before getting to my nearest stop! At least this time the CCC have listened to the lack of support from every other council and organisation involved.

  6. muzchap

    Well done Cambridge-ites...

    As a resident in the neighbouring city of P'boro - I'm glad the decent folk of Cambridge have seen through this MONEY MAKING sham.

    Sadly there is no interconnected rail network, the A14 is a joke and they want to charge more for the privilege - yeah right.

    How about you stop fkin decorating your second fkin houses with John Lewis online and actually fkin start driving around the consituency and/or using public transport - then let's see your congestion charging initiatives! A week on public transport and you'll be encouraging CARS FOR EVERYONE.

    Why the fck do we still have local politicians - they're just retarded attention seeking, detached from reality fuckwits!

    I demand MILITANT action :D


  7. Vulch

    Oh good

    We've already had a guided bus route foisted on us by the county instead of reopening the railway line on the same route. It's no doubt a coincidence that the county have also refused to replace trees lining one of the roads the buses will be using when they turn off the guideway...

  8. Anonymous Coward


    Residents should hope that Cambridge council don't follow the lead of Edinburgh City Council with regards to overwhelming public resistance to a congestion charge.

    Edinburgh put it to a referendum vote (kind of like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas, if you ask me) and the public said resoundingly, NO. After the vote one councilor was quoted as saying "we will now make it impossible to drive into the center of Edinburgh", a quote that was quickly retracted and denied.

    Within 6 months, any remaining free parking in the city center was gone and the "Central Controlled Zone" extended so that large areas of residential free parking in the surrounding (non central) areas had become permit/meter controlled areas (with a 4 hour maximium stay on the meters). Great fun if you happen to live in one of those areas and have friends coming to visit, as the meters are in operation 0830-1830, Mon-Sat. Oh and if you put another ticket on your car, without moving it, you get a fine for "meter feeding".

    Posting AC, cos I don't want to be on the end of a council inspired RIPA snoop.

  9. Dan

    Manchester CC is faltering

    Manchester's Congestion Charge looks like it is stumbling a little as well - after steadfastly refusing to even consider holding a public referendum on the issue, suddenly the referendum is on - amidst rumours that because 3 of the 10 councils refuse to back the scheme, the council is worried the whole thing will fall apart, so the concession to a referendum (with the condition that ALL councils abide by the vote) looks like a last-chance gamble to implement the scheme.

    Skull 'n' crossbones because the charge would mean the death of the city centre.

  10. Alexis Vallance

    Less lights

    Less traffic lights. Over the last decade the number of lights has dramatically increased. They cause more delays than they reduce.

  11. dervheid
    Paris Hilton

    @ jamie

    A very nice piece of nonsensical spiral thinking, eventually disappearing up it's own rectum.

    I do hope you have some idea of WTF you are talking about, because I'm buggered if I do!

    Ms. Hilton, as she appears to talk more sense than you.

  12. P Chase

    @Cambridge public transport sucks

    While there are plenty of things that could be improved, there is also plenty to praise in our local buses.

    Where I live in the city, the day-time Mon-Sat buses are so frequent, one rarely has to wait. I have two separate 10-minutely services, and some other less-frequent ones.

    I go to work in a village by bus, most days, and this service is pretty reliable and reasonably frequent; I have a perfectly-good car, so I wouldn't use the bus if it was unreliable. At 10 pounds for a weekly ticket, bus is half the cost of driving to work, and one has the benefit of free travel Saturdays (Sunday service is indeed useless).

    The bus experience does vary greatly depending on exactly where you live and work; some places do indeed currently have a poor service. But I think a lot of people who claim the buses are rubbish just like to parrot that mantra as an excuse for going everywhere by car.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good stuff....

    ....all we need is to get the Manchester scheme scrapped (referendum here we come!) and that's the government's sinister plans for national RP fatally holed.

  14. Vulch

    @ jamie - Towaway

    Cambridge used to operate a towaway scheme for parking offences. Unfortunately it was too successful, it was funded from the fines and people just stopped parking illegally. The legislation and by-laws were left on the books though just in case.

  15. S

    As someone living (or rather studying) in Cambridge

    It seems like a silly city. As someone previously mentioned, the bus services are awful. They seem to shut ridiculously early, so if you do live slightly out of the town center, and don't want to cycle, your choices are either a massively expensive taxi or to walk.

    As for people driving in from outside Cambridge, I'm not really sure. Park & Ride seems to have worked well, but I know my parents usually prefer to drive into the centre for convenience - but this is usually off peak.

    It's not really big enough to merit a congestion charge - the traffic is usually quite bad on the arterial routes in and out of the centre, but fine otherwise. I actually think there's more traffic where I live, in Watford - and there's never been talk of a congestion charge. Then again, the Cambridge council may not be useless like the Watford council are.

    There might also be something in the actual layout of Cambridge - it seems that most locals commute in from nearby villages or towns - there's no easy way to get in without driving. That might be a very difficult thing to change.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You mean the people didn't want it, and the politicians let them say so?

    The thing that always got me was that they wanted to charge me for getting to the science park (1/2 mile from the A14, with plentiful parking) at times when I never saw anyone else on the road (except for when the park gates stuck shut)

    Let's hope other councils take note

  17. Jonathan Larmour
    Thumb Down

    @@Cambridge public transport sucks

    I think the most you can say is that it does indeed depend where you live and work, but for *most* people, they suck. If your service is that frequent and cheap, you probably have the luxury of a council-subsidised service. I have a 15 minute walk to my nearest bus stop, which runs every half hour and takes a further half an hour to meander into the city centre. I'm all of 6 miles from Cambridge city.

    And this for a mere £4.50 return. Stagecoach are a bunch of w*nkers.

    But hooray for you - you have a brilliant bus service, probably largely subsidised by my council tax. Yeah, that's fair.

  18. phil

    as usual...

    ... there's rather more to it. I live *in* Cambridge, where if you actually look at the results of the survey most of us are in favour of a scheme. We can walk or cycle to work after all. Charging the school run people a few quid seems like a reasonable way to discourage them. Having to cycle past fewer commuters sound good too. We'll get there eventually, but the county/ city politics need sorting out first.

  19. wiser mouse
    IT Angle

    you are all filthy tabs

    The only reason i can understand why you have covered this kind of rubbish story on your rag is because you're all a bunch of filthy tabs - as witnessed by last week's biased cr*p.

    What next "Pub in Cambridge Runs Out Of Beer" or "Man crosses road in Cambridge"?

    Perhaps you should rename the site

  20. John Chadwick


    Hmm, a referendum, as noted above Turkeys & Christmas, now that's a waste of public money.

  21. Darren B

    Problems with Cambridge

    As an non-Cambridgeite who has both commuted (Science park.Milton) and shopped in Cambridge I have both driven and used the trains.

    1. Park & Ride, great idea except a car with 1 passenger is cheaper to park than a family/full car of 4/5. It is cheaper to park in Cambridge if you are travelling as a group in one car. (though this is true of most P&R schemes)

    2. Train station - is a good distance from the town and the buses are quite frankly crap, in most cases get a bus to the central bus station then get a bus from there to your destination.

    3. Girton Interchange - this is one of the worst thought out junctions in the UK. If the A14 at Bar Hill is bloked it f*cks up the entire network in all directions - North (A14), South (M11) East (A14),West(A428) and and is quicker to travel round the ring road/through the centre.

    4. Good train links from London & Peterbrough but what about those of us who are close enough in Bedfordshire/North Herts to use Cambridge as a social centre/work place but are between Hitchin & Peterborough. (ok a personal gripe)

    5. Increased housing in the vicinity (Cambourne etc) but no compeliing reason to use Cambridge.

    Sort out the infrastructure and you might get people interested.

  22. Aron A Aardvark

    CC = another protection racket from local gangsters, sorry, government.

    The major Stagecoach-operated 'Citi' bus routes in Cambridge are frequent. However, due to Stagecoach's near-monopoly, tickets appear expensive. I pay £20 for a seven day ticket that gives me unlimited use of all Stagecoach's buses. Is that unreasonable? It may seem the better option if petrol prices continue to rise.

    Interestingly, the Newmarket Road park n ride site was inside the perimeter of the congestion charge scheme. Talk about running a racket. That would've meant you had to pay, regardless of whether you were p n r'ing or going into town.

    Let's face it, Cambridge is an old town that was never designed for horseless carriages, let alone the volumes the narrow roads carry today.

  23. Hugh Tonks
    Paris Hilton

    Congestion caused by council in the first place

    For years, Cambridge has had a policy of closing roads (with the famous rising bollards) and putting in bus lanes, which has had the effect of squeezing the same amount of traffic into half the road space. This, together with the self-seeding traffic lights they managed to buy, are the principal causes of the congestion. You can't drive 100 yds without being stopped by something at busy times. So to expect us to pay yet again for "fixing" this is taking the piss. Besides, it's trivial to cure congestion: ban cars completely.

    The basic issue is that they have failed to understand that congestion is not a single problem with a single solution. Congestion occurs first at junctions (and anywhere else where traffic is halted), and as each junction is different, with varying traffic flows at different times of day, a different mix of measures is needed at each junction. Isn't this obvious?

    Furthermore, they haven't yet tried any of the following:

    - getting schools to open earlier, or stagger their start times

    - getting businesses to open later, and stay open later

    - putting car park space info and trafficcams on the web

    - allowing left turn on red wherever possible (is this legal? IANAL)

    - allowing multiple occupancy cars to use the (mostly empty) bus lanes

    - opening closed roads in the evenings

    - improving school bus schemes

    - getting Stagecoach to wise up and improve their service in many ways (through ticketing, off-bus ticket sales, fewer radial routes, pricing structure changes)

    - turning off traffic lights (replacing with mini-roundabouts)

    - sequencing lights better

    - better junction and lane design

    - understanding that all changes to road systems will cause drivers to behave differently, and anticipating these differences better

    - etc

    - etc etc

    We even had one councillor blustering about how this decision shouldn't be taken by an "unelected quango" but by the council. He missed the point entirely - we'd just like the decision taken by competent, well-informed people without a political axe to grind who are basing their decision on science and not on the results of a carefully crafted and useless survey.

    Paris, because she's probably as clued up as most councillors about traffic science.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Congestion charge

    Good, it was a poorly thought out scheme in the first place. For example, the suggested congestion charging area originally included all of the science and business parks on the north side of the city, and even more preposterously, most of the park and rides! I know they probably would have been excluded in the final draft, but why include them in the first place!

    A much more sensible scheme would have been to make the zone include everything inside the inner ring road ... but this wouldn't have generated as much revenue I guess.

    I work in Cambridge, yet live outside of the city. My town has a direct rail route to Cambridge, but taking the train is a non starter because of the time it would take to get to work from the station (bus to town, then to work), the cost, and the buses pretty much stop outside of business hours (no good when I work non standard business hours). Hence I drive, it takes 20 minutes, and it's comfortable and convenient. I would use public transport if it were more practical, but unfortunately it isn't.

    And the above comment about the Girton Interchange is spot on - a more poorly designed junction I have yet to see anywhere in the world...

  25. Simon Painter

    So your basic taxes pay for your basic services...

    I pay income tax which is supposed to pay for my basic public services including the police and the NHS.

    I pay value added tax which is supposed to pay for additional services.

    I pay television license tax which is supposed to pay for the BBC.

    I pay national insurance into a pension fund which I will never get to draw from.

    I pay local council tax to pay for my basic council services such as bin collection.

    I pay road fund license tax to pay for maintenance of the roads and investment in public transport.

    I pay fuel duty tax for additional funding for road maintenance and investment in public transport.

    So could someone please explain why my public services are getting worse or additional taxes are being created to fund things like road building or waste collection which I thought I was already paying for.

    I would like to opt out of the tax system and not use public services unless it's on a pay per use basis because I am pretty convinced that all my money is going on supporting a self perpetuating, inefficient and ineffectual system of government.

  26. Steve

    Stagecoach are crappy in every city

    Like muzchap, I also live in Peterborough and I used to be able to get a bus into town every 10-15mins and it would take another 10-15mins to get to town. Stagecoach decided to simplify the system.

    Now, instead of their being 4 or 5 different routes that would allow you to get to town quickly, there is a service every 10mins - unfortunately, it replaced all the other routes so it now takes at least 45min to get to town.

    Couple that with the fact that getting between different districts of Peterborough required changing at the central bus station and I was left with the choice of a 30min car journey or well over 90mins riding the bus.

    The bus was also more expensive as Stagecoach like to put their fares up when oil prices go up despite the fact that their contract to run the buses includes a cap for their fuel prices. As soon as the base price of fuel reached a certain level, tax-payer subsidies were used to cover the increases.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    "Guided Bus"

    Sounds (and looks) much like a "train", except unlike a (modern) train it runs on fossil diesel rather than nenewable electricity. (Didn't see any evidence otherwise on the Cambridge council site just now)

    Mind you, all hope is not lost - busses are easily converted to run on either electicity or LPG gas (not renewable, but much less polluting than diesel). (We have a lot of both in NZ)

  28. Sean O'Connor

    Stop building more houses

    As there's a problem with traffic in Cambridge why are thousands more houses being built on the outskirts (eg Arbury Park and Northstowe) ? Just a wild guess, but isn't that going to make the problem even worse?

  29. druck Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    If central government has the half billion pounds to improve transport in Cambridge, why is there the bribe of getting the local council to introduce congestion charging?

    Could it be the only way this gutless government can force its agenda of national road pricing on us, is piecemeal council by council. In the same was as its trying to sneak in ID cards for certain groups at a time, while making it more difficult for everyone else to avoid?

  30. Phill

    Encouraged to use cars!

    I live in shared accommodation in Cambridge and bizarrely my house-mates are in a situation where they are obliged to drive through the city center at peak times.

    Apparently residents parking on the street of Cambridge is only available for old houses - not new builds or, in our case, rebuilds. This means rather than be able to pay for residents parking 3 cars now travel through Cambridge at peak times (2 to the same location) to avoid being fined every day.

    Still, the people of Cambridge are very vocal when they think the council do something stupid (e.g. don't route cars through brunswick and no tesco on mill road!)

  31. Anonymous Coward

    @ Hugh Tonks

    Couldn;t agree more, there is so much else that could be done to improve traffic flows in the City.

    My beef is that the whole structure and operation of Cambridge is based on having to go into the City for everything; Work, Schools, both sixth form colleges, both Hospitals, Shopping centres, Sports Facilities, even the Transport hubs are all in the middle of the City. (Though the council has very conveniently moved itself to Cambourne)

    Public transport is a disaster, so no one uses it. We have one (reasonably regular) bus service through the village, but it goes straight into the Central Bus depot. No direct service to the Science or business parks where me and my friends all work. And, the last bus out leaves at 4:15pm - when most normal people are still at work, and hours before the commuters get back.

    The railway station is hard to get to and impossible to park at. I used drive to Royston, but now since the people who moved to Cambourne discovered that they cannot use Cambridge, it has become almost impossible to park at Royston.

    The local roads are in such a poor state of repair my son pointed out that Cyprus has better. And, and, there are no damn cycle paths, or even footpaths.

    So unless you have endless time, patience and money it's car, or nothing....

    Cambridge Council and University need to sort themselves out, be a little less precious. Stop playing politics and start building the facilities people want near where people actually live.

    Bottom line: Government agenda for delivering integrated transport system is a farce.

    NB: The new guided bus goes to all the right places and is a bit of a beacon of hope, though I still think a light railway would have been preferable; I hate to be at the mercy of private bus companies.

  32. Jamie

    @P Chase

    If you talk to any of the police at least around where I live next to West London they will state that there are almost as many illegal drivers and cars on the roads. If you take all the illegal cars and drivers off the road in just London you would cut traffic by about 40%. Problem is the councils don't want to do anything about this as that would cost money getting police to take these cars as the owners won't pay the fines. Instead hit the honest people as they know the fines will be paid.

  33. Paul

    bring back angle-grinder-man!

    whatever happened to angle-grinder-man? we need him back, only this time to take on traffic cameras, congestion charging cameras etc.

    it's our right to destroy the planet, dammit, to use and abuse our share of it before the Americans and Chinese use it all up.

  34. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down

    no easy options

    The fundamental problem with central Cambridge is that basically the entire town is listed buildings, and the street 'plan' was laid out somewhere around's designed for horses, and you can't change it. So as long as people are trying to drive cars around it, it's basically going to be screwed.

    A congestion charge, theoretically, stops people driving. This is fine in London, where transit is excellent. It's more of a problem in Cambridge where - see above - it stinks. I never really took the bus much when I was in Cambridge (I was a student, no immediate time pressures, so I just walked everywhere), but going on what's posted above, it's ludicrous. £20 for a weekly ticket just for buses? Where I live now (Vancouver), a *monthly* pass for buses *and* light rail (all of which are city-run) is £40 - and people complain that it's too expensive.

    If you use a congestion charge to try and stop people driving but there's no practical alternative, then this is the result you get: it looks like (and walks like and quacks like) a tax grab, and no-one likes it.

    Given the design of Cambridge the only thing I could see working, frankly, is streetcars. Yes, streetcars. Don't laugh, we used to have 'em all over the place (you can still see the tracks in Manchester). There's no space for dedicated light rail (and Cambridge is too small anyway). The street layout, though, would actually work really nicely for a streetcar system. Close all the roads in the city centre to private cars (yep, all of them) and re-purpose them for twin-track streetcars with bike lines down either side. Have the streetcar system run out to the edges of the city centre and run a decent - council-subsidized, if necessary, I know it's against New Labour religion, I don't care, can anyone name a *single* bus service that's got better since it was privatized? - bus system in from the surrounding area to the edge of the city centre.

    Yeah, it's far too radical for anyone to ever take it up, I know. But that kind of integrated system is the only thing that's really going to work to get people around Cambridge efficiently. I also suspect it'd get more support from the population than a congestion charging scheme (term 'scheme' used advisedly). At least it would actually improve things for people. I don't think *anyone* actually enjoys driving around Cambridge, it's an exercise in frustration. So if you give them a really well-implemented alternative, instead of a half-assed private profit-gouging bus system run by that twat Souter, they'll probably get behind it.

  35. Hugh McIntyre

    @ jamie - Towaway

    > When caught the car is impounded and you have to pay a charge to get it back if you can provide the necessary papers. If you cannot after one week it goes to a lot where it will get auctioned off.

    I think you need to wait more than a week.

    Strangely enough the Mercury News had a similar story a few days ago.

    Someone who lived (and parked) in an apartment complex forgot to display the tax sticker on his car. It was in the glove box, just not displayed. He went on holiday for 3-4 weeks.

    A towing company then showed up, put a ticket on his car because of the missing sticker and then towed it one week later. They wrote to him but he didn't see his mail. And then auctioned his car, all while he was still out of the country. The $10k car got auctioned for $2.8K including his posessions inside, which is pretty harsh for forgetting to stick the tax sticker *that was actually paid for* on the car.

    Strangely enough the car seemed to have been auctioned to an employee of the towing company, who then re-sold it for a profit of nearly $5k if memory serves. Not that this helped the out-of-pocket and very unhappy original owner.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Watch it!

    There is a common practise when trying to implement something potentially unpopular.

    Whatever you want that's unpopular, first make it worse, potentially a lot worse. The majority of people will be up in arms. Then say your bowing to public opinion. This makes people think 'yes, well that showed them'.

    Next, introduce the crappy thing you intended to do in the first place. Most people will have thought they won in the first round and will be less bothered, wont hear about it or cant be arsed the next time around.

    This type of thing can go on for years, the idea is to slip the crappy thing under the radar of the majority.

    Also, they will 're-brand' what they want. Case in point. Speed bumps made out of brick, each side is at 50 degrees, seven inches high and bottoms out most sports cars. Most motorists call then dangerous hazards and most motorists risk swerving into the middle of the road to avoid them. What are they called by the local counsel? Traffic Cushions! Cushions FFS.

    Don't be fooled, they will get something in place you will regret unless you keep your guard up!

  37. Dave Ross


    I am quite surprised that Cambridge council have made this descision, as every single "improvement" they have made to the roads around Cambridge has been designed to increase congestion and make driving uncomfortable with the aim towads bringing this charge in.

    Needless to say I am sure that they are now trying to think of how to rebrand the congestion charge and sell it to us again in a years time.

  38. Anonymous Coward


    As an Edinburgh resident who objected to the proposed congestion charge here, I can’t agree more with so many of the above commentators. Edinburgh’s scheme took no account of the fact that the city centre is populated – people live there and commute out of town to work and were being charged to get home later.

    Edinburgh also had its own congestion charge - it's parking fees and a Guided Busway which was supposed to solve all transport problems but ended up running for a tiny distance on the edge of town.

    As someone said, it’s a moneymaking sham or protection racket from local gangsters, sorry, government, who have increased the numbers of traffic lights/pedestrian crossings which cause more delays than they reduce and which in some parts of town seem to be every few yards. They also gave permission for lots of roadworks around town to start just before the referendum took place which made congestion appear worse. Finally they’ve pushed through a tram scheme which has Edinburgh’s roads in an uproar from one side of town to the other as they first of all dig up the roads to move the cables, relay the roads, then dig them up again to lay the tracks. This will continue for the next 2 years at least.

    Even a change in political party leading the Council has had no effect which makes one wonder if the elected Councillors are just a bunch of clones of some sort.

  39. Dave

    Misguided Bus

    The Cambridgeshire MisGuided Bus is a wonderful example of arse-about-face thinking. There are miles of guided busway out in the fields, bypassing all the villages with hardly any traffic on their roads yet, when the busway reaches the edge of Cambridge, the buses get dumped out onto the main roads right into the peak traffic flow.

    The buses are really good on the routes that run from somewhere you don't want to start, to somewhere you don't want to go, but are crap on all other routes. On the bright side, they do appear to have got the wizardry working so you can tell how late your bus is going to be, courtesy of the electronic signs at bus stops (there, an IT angle!)

  40. Mu Be

    You've all got it wrong. There will indeed be a congestion charge.

    It really hasn't been shelved. The County knows that it needs the money, and that there is no other way of getting it. This shelving, as reported, is just a proposal. Nothing more.

    Democracy? We've exported it all, apparently...

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